Family was key to pianist’s successes

Connor Wilcox with Mikael Petersson, music planning co-ordinator and pianist at Elmhurst
Connor Wilcox with Mikael Petersson, music planning co-ordinator and pianist at Elmhurst
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“My biggest influence is my family, who have always encouraged my musical ability,” says Connor Wilcox, “I am endlessly grateful to them and I wouldn’t be where I am without their continued support.”

Music to their ears, perhaps. After all, it was such support that saw the local pianist given the chance of a lifetime experiencing the life of a profesisonal ballet pianist through his studies at Birmingham City University.

Their Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and Elmhurst Ballet School have enrolled him into their Placement for Pianists programme, with the notable Julian Lloyd Webber as principal.

Connor, 24, and Yung-Li, from Yilan County in Taiwan, have attended ten programme sessions over the past four months.

They have observed and played for ballet classes, spent a day watching pianists at Birmingham Royal Ballet and have benefitted from one-to-one tutorials with Elmhurst’s pianists Mikael Petersson and Elaine Li – both former graduates.

Petersson said: “The art world needs to be accessible to more people, so it’s vital for arts venues, training establishments and artists to reach out to wider audiences.”

But while this amazing opportunity could be setting him on the road to musical magnificence, he never forgets where it all started.

He said: “The earliest musical experience I can remember was when I was six years old. My grandmother used to take my sister and me to church, where I remember being inspired by hymns and organ voluntaries. Another was the weekly classes my sister used to take at Gail Neish Dance Studios in Fife when we were both children. The classes always had a piano accompanist, and I often used to observe the classes while I waited for my sister.

“Of course there were my piano teachers – Nicole Caesar, Betty Campbell and Bill McIntyre – who gave me constant encouragement and shielded me from some of the more competitive elements of piano playing during my formative years.”

He added: “When I was 16 I was lucky enough to be accepted by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Junior Department, where I studied most Saturdays for two years until I started my Bachelors degree at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in 2012. I didn’t really practise piano enough before I turned 18; Scottish harp was my first study in my early teenage years, and I focused on getting good grades in high school. That all changed pretty drastically when I came to Birmingham, where I began to understand the level of commitment necessary to play piano to a very high level.”